Netflix’s new reality music competition Rhythm + Flow aims to find the future of hip-hop, but it’s also a primer on some of the genre’s modern day superstars, including celebrity judges Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, and T.I. While Cardi and Chance’s viral come-ups might be a little fresher in our minds, T.I.’s own story, from his chart-topping hits to high-profile prison stints, is also back in the spotlight.
While en route to auditions, the camera catches Cardi, Chance, and T.I. talking about the potential talent they might discover. They also comment on the impact this kind of widespread exposure could have on up-and-coming rappers’ careers.
“This intangible benefit,” T.I. says, to which Cardi asks, “How do you know all these fancy words?”
“I’ve been to prison, Cardi,” T.I. replies. “Spent a lot of time reading dictionaries.”
T.I. is one of the most successful rappers of the 2000s, and his stints in jail only added to his mythology. He infamously filmed a promotional video behind bars in Georgia in 2004, per MTV News, and he dropped his seventh studio album in 2010 while serving 11 months in federal prison — he was arrested on drug charges in Los Angeles and was found to be in violation of his probation, which prohibited him from committing a crime or illegally possessing controlled substances. Prior to that, he was imprisoned in 2009 for weapons possession, per The Hollywood Reporter.
T.I.’s latest high-profile trouble with the law was in 2018, when he was arrested trying to enter his gated community outside Atlanta. He was charged with disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and simple assault, though he posted bond and was released from custody later that day, according to CNN.
T.I. does not appear to be shy about his time in prison — even, in Chance’s words, joking about “reading hella books in jail” for the Netflix viewers at home. As he later explains, it’s all about looking forward. “It seems like we can take this city on, find someone to surpass all of our success,” T.I. says as the Rhythm + Flow crew drives through the City of Angels. “Wouldn’t that be something?”